Great Britian Studies Drug Policy Reform
For years, Great Britain has fought the war on drugs through a punitive approach that often put people struggling with addiction behind bars or required them to pay hefty fines. A new study conducted by the Home Office (the government department that leads on immigration and passports, drug policy, crime policy and counter-terrorism in the United Kingdom) reveals that looking at addiction more as a health problem than a criminal one may pay dividends.
Government Study Warns Against Punitive Approach to Drug Misuse
After analyzing its own drug policies in comparison to those of 13 other countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden, the Home Office concluded that there’s really no connection between stiff drug-related legislation and the number of people using drugs. According to The Independent, the report conceded that people’s use of narcotics was shaped by elements “more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone.” In other words, people suffering from addiction really don’t care whether the substance they abuse is legal or not, or what the punishment may be if they’re caught, because they’re addicted.
Furthermore, the research uncovered sound evidence that treating drug possession and addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal matter can provide tremendous benefits, such as a decrease in drug-related casualties and HIV infection rates, without bringing on a wave of increased addiction cases. One of the greatest examples of this is in Portugal, where the health and well-being of Portuguese drug users has dramatically improved since the government decriminalized drug possession in 2001, and adopted drug policies that treat addiction as a health issue.
Study Results Increase Pressure for Drug Policy Reform
As it stands now, the Home Office claims it is not currently considering changing the country’s 43-year-old drug policy, but the pressure to do so will only grow thanks to the evidence laid out in this report – pressure that is even coming from some of its own members. “If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform,” said Home Office Minister and Member of Parliament Norman Baker. “For too long, successive governments have been unwilling to look at the evidence. This comprehensive report shows that other ways of tackling drug addiction and supply can save lives and cut crime.”
Baker hopes this report will open up a much-needed debate and bring the “mindless rhetoric” on drug policies to an end. The mindless rhetoric he’s talking about is something we see all too often: government officials enacting harsh criminal laws against drug use in order to appear tough on drugs. The problem that many people are starting to realize is that those harsh punishments often have little to no effect on the amount of people using drugs, nor do they help the people who are. Once a person becomes addicted to something, they no longer possess the will power to choose whether or not to use. Punishing them as if they do will not help them “learn a lesson” or make them want to do it any less, because it’s no longer something they want to do – it’s something they need to do.
Addiction is a powerful disease, not a lifestyle choice. Those suffering from it deserve to be treated, not tried. They deserve the opportunity to receive support and knowledge to help them understand and overcome their affliction; not to be thrown in prison on account of it. That’s the conclusion governments across the globe are finally beginning to arrive at, and hopefully, thanks to this study, Great Britain will join them there soon.
The legality of a substance has little to do with its propensity for abuse, and legal ramifications often become secondary concerns for those who fall victim to addiction. Therefore, the primary concern of those around them should be to help them seek a solution, not a sentencing. If someone you or someone you care about are struggling with substance abuse, you can find that solution today. Call The Watershed at 1-800-861-1768.